Monday, December 16, 2013

Book Roundup 2013


One year ago, I wrote a post on the books I had read since graduating college until that point. With this post, I begin a tradition of listing the books read each year, partly to keep track of what I have read, and partly to introduce some of my all-time favorite books from the year to you the readers. I’d love to hear your feedback on which of these books you have read, and what you thought of them!

Some of you may know that I keep a growing Word document with titles of books I hope to read (and I always welcome recommendations to add to the document!!). When I tackle a new book, I type in the dates I begin and end the book, and then write down my thoughts on the book. In this small way, I continue to be an English major.

The list is not nearly as extensive as last year’s list. I determinedly slogged through The Brothers Karamazov for two months, and although it was difficult, I am glad I took the time. Then when I moved to the East Coast, I felt the need to read old familiar favorites, and so I reread The Chronicles of Narnia series and the A Song of Ice and Fire series, and the latter took four months to complete.

Without further ado, here is the list:

Anathem ~ Neal Stephenson
And The Mountains Echoed ~ Khaled Hosseini
The Art of Racing in the Rain ~ Garth Stein
Behind the Beautiful Forevers ~ Katherine Boo
Beloved ~ Toni Morrison
Blue Like Jazz ~ Donald Miller
The Brothers Karamazov ~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Catcher in the Rye ~ J.D. Salinger
Dune ~ Frank Herbert
The Hedge Knight: A Tale of the Seven Kingdoms ~ George R.R. Martin
The Irresistible Revolution ~ Shane Claiborne
The Killer Angels ~ Michael Sharra
Midnight’s Children ~ Salman Rushdie
The Mystery Knight: A Tale of the Seven Kingdoms ~ George R.R. Martin
On the Road ~ Jack Kerouac
Reading Lolita in Tehran ~ Azar Nafisi
The Silmarillion ~ J.R.R. Tolkien
Stardust ~ Neil Gaiman
Sweet Thursday ~ John Steinbeck
The Sworn Sword: A Tale of the Seven Kingdoms ~ George R.R. Martin
You Can't Say You Can't Play ~ Vivian Gussin Paley

Reread:

A Song of Ice and Fire Series by George R.R. Martin
The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
The Chronicles of Narnia Series by C.S. Lewis

Side note: Should I also change my name to initials to write an epic, classic series?

This year, I’ll make a Top 5 list as I did not read as many books as last year. In no particular order (and not including the series’):

1. Anathem
2. Reading Lolita in Tehran
3. The Silmarillion
4. The Irresistible Revolution
5. Midnight’s Children

All of these books blew me away in radical ways. I heartily recommend all of them.

This year, only one book makes the dislike list! That book is The Catcher in the Rye, and yes, I know it’s a classic and many fans of the novel will be upset by this admission. If you read my list last year, you know I try to appreciate every book I encounter, but I had a hard time appreciating The Catcher in the Rye. The writing was very raw and revealed the searching yet lost mind of the main character, which can be a gripping method to tell a story, yet ultimately I felt that the novel did not give birth to any element of worth or beauty. Sorry, everyone. That’s how I honestly felt.

Each title is linked to distinct memories of a specific point in my life this past year, so reviewing this list was like traveling through time. I started The Silmarillion while waiting for our Peace Corps interview, only to find out later that day that Aaron had been accepted into grad school. What a surreal day! I read The Irresistible Revolution over Easter Weekend. I remember finishing Behind the Beautiful Forevers by the outdoor fire pit at one of my favorite coffee shops in Santa Barbara. Blue Like Jazz was read almost entirely in one evening, in my friend’s living room, where a few months later I spent the night before I left Santa Barbara, trying to finish The Killer Angels before I had to return it to the library. It’s been a year of transition and bittersweet memories, and remembering the feelings that accompany these titles remind me how grateful I am for the life lived this year.

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